Kobe is Youngest, but not the Fastest NBA player to 20,000 points

Kobe’s Not Happy with Interbasket Breaking down his record…Kobe Bryant surpassed the 20,000 point mark the other night making him the youngest player to meet that milestone at 29 years, 122 days.

Update: Kobe is youngest to 30,000, still not the fastest

His mark beat Wilt Chamberlain by almost two weeks (Chamberlain was 29 years, 134 days old). Michael Jordan, the only other player to reach the mark before turning 30, was 29 years, 326 days old.

Rounding out the top-five in the youngest-to-20,000 is Oscar Robertson at 30 years and 97 days old, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (30 years, 342 days).

Sounds cool, but what does it really mean?
With all this talk about this youngest-to-20,000-record has left me scratching my head. I know it’s a nice-sounding record, and a cool news item, but what does it mean?

Being a stats-kinda-guy, it’s really just a title with no real basis for real comparisons. Perhaps if all NBA players entered the league at the same age, then the record would have some weight with me, but that’s not the case – making all this hype about Kobe being the youngest to hit 20,000 just that, hype.

And with all that hype, I don’t want anyone thinking that youngest equals fastest.

As far as which players were the quickest to 20,000 points, we looked at it with an apples-to-apples comparison. By looking at the amount of games-played to get to 20,000 points as our measure – Wilt, Jordan, Big-O, Kareem and ten other players reached that plateau faster than Kobe Bryant.

With games played as our gauge, Kobe fell to 15th on that list. The real deal 20000 point list

So it comes as no surprise that Wilt Chamberlain got there first with his gaudy scoring averages; the Stilt achieved 20,000 points in only 499 games – that’s an amazing average of 40.1 points/per game.

By comparison, it took Kobe Bryant 811 games at his 24.7ppg career average. That means it took him 312 more games than Wilt Chamberlain to reach 20,000, but that’s nothing to get down about, no other player is even close to Wilt’s mark.

Michael Jordan was second, no surprise there, needing only 620 games to reach 20,000 points (at 32.3ppg). Oscar Robertson (671, 29.8ppg), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (684, 29.2ppg), Elgin Baylor (711, 28.1ppg) fill out the top-five in this list.

Allen Iverson, whom came into the league the same year as Kobe, was sixth on the list and accomplished the 20K point mark in 713 games, almost 100 games less than Kobe.

Going through some internet-research and using basketball-reference.com, I was able to determine that Kobe’s best friend, Shaquille O’Neal reached 20,000 points faster, needing only 727 games. Dominique Wilkins (763) and Kobe’s former teammate Karl Malone did it quicker (772 games). So did Larry Bird, albeit by a hair (809). Other players that Kobe would find himself behind in this list are Jerry West, George Gervin, and Bob Petit.

Check out the list I compiled:

List of Players to Reach 20,000 with games played:

  1. Wilt Chamberlain (499 games) during the 1965-66 season (7th NBA season)
  2. Michael Jordan (620) January 08, 1993 vs Milwukee Bucks (9th)
  3. Oscar Robertson (671) during the 1968-69 season (9th)
  4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (684) during the 1976-77 season (9th)
  5. Elgin Baylor (711) during the 1968-69 season (11th)
  6. Allen Iverson (713) January 23, 2007 vs. Denver Nuggets (11th)
  7. Jerry West (~720) during the 1970-71 season (11th)
  8. Shaquille O’Neal (727) March 20, 2003 vs. Sacramento Kings (11th)
  9. George Gervin (~745) during the 1985-86 season (10th)
  10. Bob Petit (~760) November 13, 1964 (11th)
  11. Dominique Wilkins (763) November 05, 1992 vs New York Knicks (10th)
  12. Karl Malone (772) Jan 20, 1995 vs Cleveland Cavs (10th)
  13. Adrian Dantley (775) December 11, 1987 vs. Washington Bullets (12th)
  14. Larry Bird (809) Nov 20, 1990 vs Washington Bullets (12th)
  15. Kobe Bryant (811) December 23, 2007 vs New York Knicks (12th)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (833) November 11, 1995 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (12th)
  • Moses Malone (837) April 12, 1987 vs. Detroit Pistons (11th NBA season)
  • Charles Barkley (858) February 08, 1996 vs New Jersey Nets (12th)
  • Alex English (903) January 06, 1988 vs. New Jersey Nets
  • Clyde Drexler (967) November 24, 1996 vs Los Angeles Lakers (13th)
  • Kevin Garnett (*975) *projected games (13th)

See UPDATED full list of NBA Players with 20,000 points

For several of the older players (~), individual boxscores weren’t available and information was hard to find, but I was able to deduce enough to get an approximate games played. Anyone have exact numbers, please let me know.

Yes, it’s definitely great company. Yes, Kobe Bryant is an awesome player. And Kobe did reach the milestone before players like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Mitch Richmond, Clyde Drexler, and Kevin Garnett, but I wanted to make sure we took a look at this on a fair and quantifiable level.

Predicting LeBron’s Run to 20,000: If LeBron James stays healthy, all of Kobe’s “youngest to reach xxxxx points” records are going to be annihilated. In LeBron James’s first four seasons he accumulated 8439 points in 316 games, which equals 26.7 points per game. James is about to turn 23 years old (in 6 days) so he’s not even close to reaching his prime yet.

In predicting when LeBron will hit 20,000, let’s be conservative and say he averages 28 points over the next 6 seasons with an average of 74 games played. That means he’ll score ~2072 points in each of those seasons. This means that LeBron will reach 20,000 points in his 10th season, around his 730th game. Going with this prediction, LeBron James will just have turned 28 years old.

God I’m old.

Keep in mind that the above is a pretty conservative estimate. If LeBron stays injury-free, he is likely to average more than 28ppg in three of those seasons, for every point he goes over 28ppg in the next six season will bring him higher up on the list. Conservatively, we can say he’ll get to 20,000 in 730 games (good for #9 on the list), but I bet it’ll be closer to 700 games, which will put him #5 on the list behind Oscar Robertson and Kareem but above Elgin Baylor, Allen Iverson and Jerry West. And he’ll reach the 20,000 plateau at 27 years of age which is 2 years younger than Kobe.

Wow. I think it’s much more amazing when youngest records jibes with fastest records.

Sources: Bryant becomes youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points (AFP), Kobe Bryant Reaches 20,000-Point Plateau (Nba.com), Jordan records 20,000 career points 2nd fastest (FindArticles), Basketball-Reference’s Individual Game Results (Basketball-reference.com), Kobe Youngest to 20,000 NBA Points (IBN Forum)


  • its a nice statistic… but still you have to give it to the guy.. and also you have to think about how basketball was and how basketball is right now.. rules, popularity of the game, competition, coaching, defense, offense, and such where totally different.. the game is continually advancing, thus allowing only the finest players around.. yes lebron james might beat his youngest to 20k and most likely be faster than kobe to 20k but consider also that kobe was just a bench for his few seasons.. he had to fight over the shadow of Eddie Jones.. compared to a lebron james who was #1 draft pick to a cleveland cavs team who badly needs a scoring machine..

  • you did not include that kobe was not a starter or did not get starter minutes or was not even a full starter in his first 2 years in the league. but anyway like what you said not all players started at the same age, but to do research and spend a lot of you time for this?.. just to shoot down the guy based as what you call meaningless record or stat?.. its pretty depressing..

  • Kobe jumped out of high school that is why he needed 2-3years before his impact in nba. If he did went to college before getting drafted in the nba. He would dominate the league immediately like all the other stars.

  • moron finder

    how do u get 9th season for jordan n others? if he played 620 games divided by 82 equals midway through 7th season moron

  • get lost get lost

    Kobe was overrated the day stepped on the basketball court. Although he has proven himself to be an great player over the last 16 seasons, it is still unfortunate that many fans continue to overrate him to this day with meaningless records like this. Just because he was ‘not a starter’ or ‘didn’t get starter minutes’ as hohum is saying or even lame excuse that he ‘needed 2-3 years’ (from get lost) does not mean anything. At the end of Kobe’s 12th season (of which he played 866 games) he averaged 36mpg anyway. Since everyone loves comparing him to MJ, for comparison only – MJ through 667 games (at the end of his 9th season) averaged 38mpg. He may not have been the focal point of the offense at start of his career – but he did average 12-13shots per game over his first 4yrs nonetheless (Andrew Bynum for example is averaging 12.8shots/game this season).
    People need to deal with the facts only (which is something Kobe fans never tend to do). In response to boo – the ‘rules’ (which favours older eras), ‘popularity of the game’ (? WTF this has no bearing on what we are talking about at all), ‘competition’ (again favours old era), ‘coaching’ (if you think coaching is better in this era then you have contradicted yourself), ‘defense’ (lol yeah ok – I’m sure you are aware of the rule changes so I won’t go there), ’offense’ (players today are less skilled), and such where totally different’ – this whole sentence is completely flawed.
    The point is this, Kobe (for as good as he has been) has always been overrated to some extent by the media and fans. Anyone who has been around the game for long enough knows this and their opinions can be publically found. Yes, he is an all-time great (top 10-15 IMO), a champion and one of the best players of his era, but this meaningless record along with the constant comparison to Michael Jordan are examples of way people can use to overrate Kobe.

  • Liked the article. Always interesting to get back to predictions after a few years… So to complete you point: 1)Iceman achieved it in 747 games, during the 38th of his final season.
    2) At the current pace LBJ will much likely reach the 20k plateau around its 725th game (43 games from here): Your conservative prediction turned out to be actually just conservative enough.

  • 730 games looking accurate, will happen in about 725

  • Thanks. Who knew that LJ would fly the coop and join Dwyane Wade and Bosh in Miami? That’s certainly impacted his scoring average.

  • tony starks

    Kobe didn’t start his whole career because if he did, his point total would be a whole lot higher. Lebron started his whole career never sat on the bench. to the guy: get lost get lost, Kobe is a top 5 player of all time. Clearly your a hater.

  • raf jordan

    wow dude — your math was pretty damn good. you estimated lebron would hit 20K by game 730. chances are he’ll do it wednesday in game #726. for sure by #727. bravo

  • stfunerds

    get off of lebrons dick from the beginning of reading this article I said this is a lebron fan… Sure enough my assumption was correct

  • K. Bryant 811, M. Jordan 620.
    Wilt Chamberlain 499 games.
    Wow it took him that many?
    The greatest bar none.
    Wilt did not play in a league with 30 teams.
    Which means the majority of the weak starters today wouldn’t even be in the league.
    During Wilt’s era there were at least 50 players 6’11 or taller. (look it up)
    Wilt averaged better than 22 rebounds a game for his career.
    He shot better than 60% from the floor for his career.
    One season he averaged better than 48 minutes per game.
    Wilt holds 65 nba records.
    The game changed because of Wilt.
    The game was changed for Jordan and others in his era.


  • I agree Wilt the best ever.
    A prolific scorer yes but, when asked to involve teammates more on the offensive end he instantly complied.
    Wilt led the leauge in assists that season.
    No other center in history has done so.
    The first unstoppable shots in history: Wilt’s dunk then Wilt’s finger roll.
    There was no 3pt shot in that era, that has helped a lot of the modern day players with their point totals.
    Jerry West hitting that 55ft shot, would have won the game against the Knicks not tied it.
    Wilt slowed down is still better than any thing the basketball world has ever seen!
    Ck the stats.

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